Yearning for My Lai?Back in the Golden Age of the sixties, the "My Lai massacre" was so well-known, and so many Americans had been properly conditioned, that "My Lai" generated an intense, visceral response almost everywhere. And maybe a sit-in, or even a protest march. Those were the days!
Abu Ghraib: a Forlorn HopeFour years ago, Abu Ghraib showed real promise. In the first months of 2004, people around the world were being disgusted by more and more photos of disgusting things that were being done in a prison in Iraq. I got the impression that the Al Jazeera version, that "US commander 'allowed prison abuse' " was the default attitude. To be fair, Aljazeera did write that there was a US army inquiry into the mess.
In fact, American military officials realized that something was wrong, and had been investigating Abu Ghraib since August 11, 2003.
What Went So Wrong?!Possibly because news today isn't controlled by the tight little quartet of The New York Times, ABC, CBS, and NBC, with PBS riding point, Americans just don't seem to be as well managed these days. Four years later, Abu Ghraib just doesn't have the traction of My Lai: and Abu Ghraib was a real scandal1.
Back to Reality: A Marine, a Puppy(?), and a VideoRecently, someone put a video on YouTube. It showed someone in what looks like a Marine lance corporal's uniform, throwing what looks like a puppy (the puppy doesn't move) over a cliff. There's even an off-camera yelp.
Well, yes: it is. At least, the Marines think so.
" 'The video is shocking and deplorable and is contrary to the high standards we expect of every Marine,' Major Chris Perrine, the public affairs director at the Marine Corps base in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, said in a statement.
" 'This video came to our attention this morning, and we have initiated an investigation,' he said. 'We do not tolerate this type of behavior and will take appropriate action.' "
Posts I found in the blogosphere about this latest evidence of American atrocities was surprisingly low-key:
- "Marine throws puppy off of a cliff"
- "Oh crap - here we go again. US Military"
("...I guess this Marine wants to become the next Lynndie England. Sad.")
- "Marine abusing puppy on video"
That last blog ("Marine Tosses Puppy ....") observed that the video was of low quality to begin with, and that YouTube compression hadn't done it any favors. Also that the yelp didn't seem to exhibit a doppler effect (what happens with sound and motion that makes a passing truck sound like it's going "wheeee-oooo.")
I'd like to believe that the video is a fake, but it's possible that there is a Marine out there who threw a puppy down a cliff, and someone who videotaped the animal abuse. If that's so, I'm sincerely glad that I'm not that Marine.
This Isn't the SixtiesAs for whether the puppy-pitching perpetrator will become a center of anti-American feelings in the tradition of My Lai, I doubt it. This isn't the sixties any more:
- A few news editors on the coasts don't decide what Americans hear and read.
A fragmented assortment of news outlets, and hordes of bloggers, ensure that facts get out, no matter who doesn't like them
- American society isn't focused on an angst-filled generation, whose parents had followed 'expert' advice while chasing a dream of material success
- Remember those
- 'I Was a Teenage...' movies
- Teen-on-the-street interviews, where reporters asked teens for opinions about socioeconomic aspects of contemporary political issues?
- And took the answers seriously?
More, at "Marines: Puppy Abuse YouTube Video 'Deplorable,' Investigation Launched" FOXNews (March 4, 2008)
After Word: My Lai and Abu Ghraib, Perception and Reality1The "My Lai massacre" doesn't seem to be quite the monstrous atrocity that Americans were led to believe. An alternative to the standard anti-American story:
- The My Lai attack took place in a free fire zone (by definition occupied only by Viet Cong)
- My Lai was be a supply depot for Viet Cong food and munitions
- After questioning My Lai villagers turned out to be Viet Cong and/or VC sympathizers
- My Lai villagers refused to expose spider/fighting holes, but U.S. soldiers found them anyway
- The U.S. soldiers were battle weary, and believed that the villagers were the same enemy which had recently engaged them with sniper fire a booby traps: which wasn't too far from the truth
(I got my information from: "an informal Q & A resource" and "Vietnam War My Lai Massacre Department of Defense Documents." In both cases, the sources of information are units of the U.S. military - 'and you know what they're like.')